Not a Dirty Secret: On Some Cases of Bulimia in Cinema.


Morag, Raya. 2006. “Not a Dirty Secret: On Some Cases of Bulimia in Cinema.”. Camera Obscura 21 (61.1) : 147-182.


 The cinematic representations of bulimia nervosa are few in number. Their very rarity, however, sheds light on the relations between the private body and the public (social, historical, cultural, and cinematic) body, as well as between the private, external, ostensibly visible body, and the internal, invisible, repressed body. Both Hunger Years (Hungerjahre in einem reichen Land, dir. Jutta Brückner, Germany, 1979) (the film’s original title literally
translates into Hunger Years in a Land of Plenty) and Girl, Interrupted (dir. James Mangold, US, 1999) depict the female bulimic body as a resistant body. They do so by presenting a network of conflicts between the private, external/internal body and the public body. These, of course, are different in each case. Hunger Years, Brückner’s autobiographical movie, describes the bulimia of  the (anti)historical body. The bulimia attests that the body itself
has a history, but not in terms of historical continuity. Rather, the female body in Germany in the 1970s creates resistance to the historical body with which the explicit, and particularly the implicit, public discourse affiliates it. That is, the bulimic body of the 1970s creates itself as a body that is resistant to the intergenerational transition of the Nazi-fascist male, and particularly female, body. In Girl, Interrupted, it is the psychocultural bulimic
body that carries the mark of sexual abuse and incest in the mid1960s American family. The bulimic body is the total inversion of the physical model of sexual excess of the 1960s. Bulimic excess replaces sexual excess, an exchange that is tragic because of the incest. The bulimic body as a rebellious body creates interactions not only with the supposedly liberated physical model that the 1960s culture of sexual freedom propagated but also with the model of the political body engaged in political struggle. Just as it resists the sexual revolution, as well as its perverted manifestation within the family unit, it also presents itself as apolitical. 

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Last updated on 05/28/2018